leans strongly toward a biblical worldview
|Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
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Just in time for Easter, the highly anticipated release of HEAVEN IS FOR REAL in theaters nationwide on April 16 thoughtfully raises important questions that every person must ultimately face regarding the person of Jesus and the existence of an afterlife. Based on the true story of four-year-old Colton Burpo’s near-death experience in 2003 while in surgery for a ruptured appendix, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL follows many of the details found in the New York Times best-selling 2010 book of the same name.
Produced by Joe Roth and T.D. Jakes, this Sony/TriStar film is directed by Randall Wallace (BRAVEHEART) and stars Greg Kinnear (AS GOOD AS IT GETS, YOU’VE GOT MAIL) as small-town Nebraska pastor and volunteer firefighter Todd Burpo, Kelly Reilly (SHERLOCK HOLMES) as his stay-at-home wife, Sonja, and newcomer Connor Corum as their young son, Colton. While HEAVEN IS FOR REAL does not clearly present the biblical teaching on how a person gets to heaven or comes to know Jesus, it is a high quality outreach tool for Christians to share with non-believers about the reality of heaven and the Gospel.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
In a world increasingly skeptical about biblical truth claims, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL shows that a young boy’s experience of heaven and Jesus was, indeed, real. Colton’s knowledge about events he saw on Earth while in surgery and people he met in heaven – details he could not possibly have known otherwise – will cause moviegoers to reflect upon the implications for their own lives.
While some Christians may take issue with the hint of universalism and lack of overt reference to repentance and faith in Jesus for salvation and attainment of heaven, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL shows how Colton’s innocent and matter-of-fact glimpse of heaven causes his family, church and community to wrestle with life’s big questions. Through Colton’s experience, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL gently shares biblical truths in an accessible and non-preachy way – offering hope, encouragement and a strengthening of faith for both Christians and non-believers alike.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
The characters in HEAVEN IS FOR REAL honor God with their love for each other and respect for others. Todd and Sonja Burpo clearly have a loving and unified relationship as husband and wife – working together through realistic challenges while doing their best to protect their children and raise them well. Older sister Cassie Burpo is sweet and protective of Colton – particularly in the face of taunting as word gets out about Colton’s experience in heaven.
Beyond the immediate family, some of the most moving scenes in HEAVEN IS FOR REAL involve Todd’s church family and the local community. There are numerous scenes depicting church members coming together to sing hymns, minister to those in crisis and pray for each other. And the tender love of God is clearly and realistically reflected in the local community as people help each other during various circumstances and events.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL focuses on the realness of heaven and Jesus as experienced through the eyes of a young boy. As his parents and others in his home town and beyond learn of his story, a wide range of emotions, responses and explanations for what happened are unleashed. Here, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL respectfully presents a variety of perspectives, including those of skeptical church leaders, supportive church members, an agnostic college psychologist, Todd’s firefighter colleagues and friends, Cassie’s school mates and others in their hometown. As each person reacts to Colton’s story, we see faith-compatible echoes of the men and women of the Bible who similarly have wrestled with their faith.
Family Viewing Suitability
With its PG rating, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is a multigenerational, family-friendly film to share with children five years of age and older. While there is only one glossed-over reference to hell as a place of “hate and fear,” HEAVEN IS FOR REAL deals with the all-important topics of Jesus, death and the afterlife which are important to sensitively discuss with children and non-believers alike. HEAVEN IS FOR REAL affords a great opportunity to do just this and further flesh out the Gospel message of repentance and faith in Christ for salvation – and the promise of eternity in heaven with God and His people.
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL brings high production values to the big screen and a well-written story line that is entertaining, engaging and thought-provoking. There are several humorous moments mixed in and it is refreshing to see important faith-driven topics handled well by Hollywood. Young Connor Corum’s portrayal of Colton is impressive, and Greg Kinnear delivers a standout performance among an otherwise solid cast. And many viewers will love the traditional hymns and upbeat musical score.
Overall, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL is a well-made, encouraging and hope-filled film that causes people to ask themselves what they think about the central figure in human history – Jesus – and the biblical promise of heaven for those who are with Him. Faith-driven moviegoers will likely find that this film meets their desire for solid, faith-friendly entertainment to engage with and share with family and friends.